Sunday, 30 November 2014

Christmas feeling in Växjö

Over in Sweden to visit our son and do some Christmas shopping. Came just as the Black Friday sales are on, so discounts everywhere. Weather nice, cold and fresh. Today we have been walking around the centre where there is a Christmas market. We visited this beautiful ecological shop as well, see photos below.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

This is the first book in my second 'line' choice of 'Connective Reading'.

This is the book that tells the story about the 'mad woman in the attic' in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.

Jean Rhys was born in Dominica and came to England when she was sixteen. She tried a lot of professions before she started writing. She was one of the artists in Paris in the 1920s and Ford Madox Ford helped her publish her first stories. She had not published anything since 1939 when she made this remarkable come back in 1966. It saw her win the Royal Society of Literature Award and the W.H. Smith Award. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1966 and a CBE in 1978. She died in 1979, at the age of eighty-four.

Having had a background in Dominica, Jean Rhys was really suitable to write about Rochester's first wife who was born there. We don't get to know too much about her in Charlotte Brontë's book, just the tantalising information that Rochester discovered that she was mad as soon as he had married her. Since Jane Eyre is the main character in Brontë's book, and I guess we all want it to be the two of them in the end, we sort of dismiss Bertha (as Rochester calls her, in this book she is called Antoinette) and are also less inclined to like her.

This book gives a picture of her background and her sad story. Most of the story takes place in the West Indies.  It is only people who have lived there a long time or are born there, that seem to like it. Everything seem different from England; the climate, the nature, the birds, the sun rise and sun set,

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Odessa - Genius and Death in a City of Dreams by Charles King

This is a book I have read, connected from The Hare With the Amber Eyes. To try to lower the Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.
number of TBR books, the 'connected reading' will have to come from these shelves or from the library. I am in the process of creating a separate page, for this my very own challenge. I will use two different 'lanes' of books to connect. First one is the one above and the second one is

The Hare with the Amber Eyes connection: this book is about the Ephrussi family who originated in Odessa. There were many connections to pursue from this book, but since I have a book about Odessa it was a natural choice.

Mark Twain felt supremely at home when he visited Odessa in the late summer of 1867. He had come to the Russian port city on the world's first long-distance pleasure cruise, a jaunt across the Near East related in The Innocents Abroad. After a twenty-hour run across the Black Sea on the american steamer Quaker City, Twain stepped ashore to see Odessa's cascade of stone steps - one of the most famous staircases in the world - beckoning him from the docklands to the upper city. At the top, looking like a casual visitor peering out over the harbour, the diminutive statue of the duc de

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunday bliss - From E-book to E-bike

Me with the E-bike!
Another lovely autumn day that has to be used. Yesterday we passed by the bike shop to pick up my bike that has been serviced. Once inside the shop we found this wonderful e-bike and my husband, Martin, insisted that I should try it. He has been trying for some time, to convince me that an e-bike is something for me. I have resisted, but once I tried it, I only needed about two minutes to realise that this was an absolutely fantastic bike. I did not need to much convincing that this would be a wonderful Christmas present.

Since it is too big to put under the tree, we decided to buy it right away. In this way I could benefit from the lovely autumn and still use it.  So already today we ventured out. Martin had to use one of the two bikes we just had in for service. Just ordinary bikes since I am not much for these modern bikes! Hmm, seems it is not entirely true. But...I am absolutely in love with this e-bike and can see myself improving on my physical condition within short! Let's hope.

 I did a little bit of biking yesterday just to try it out, but today was really exceptional! We went over to Chateau La Hulpe, continued toward Lake Genval and ended up taking a glass of champagne in a bar on the way. It was absolutely lovely sitting there in the sunshine, looking out over the lake.

Once home I made a check-up of the tour. Around 27 km in 1 hour 39 minutes, with an average of 16.6 km an hour! Not bad for a beginner. I am totally knocked out and I just hope that I will be able to rise tomorrow! But as Scarlet O'Hara said: Tomorrow is another day! 

What a wonderful day!

The beautiful surroundings of
Chateau La Hulpe

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Brussels and its history (part IV)

So finally I managed to finish walk No.2 from Derek’s book Brussels for Pleasure. It covered the Sainte Catherine district in the southern part of Brussels, where once there was a harbour. The harbour was covered years ago and it is difficult to even imagine how it was then.

I started the tour at the square ‘Quai aux Briques’ and took the first right turn to enter into the square Sainte Catherine. Continuing along the square it continues into a beautiful street with benches and trees in the middle, almost like a square. There we can look at the first house of interest, an Art Deco building constructed in 1928 by a firm importing exotic fruit. When we look up to the top of the house we see decorations suitable for such a firm; pictures of orange and banana trees.

Next fantastic building is on Rue de Flandre. This is a so called ‘hidden gem’. The real house lies hidden inside in the court yard. Today the building is a theatre and art

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Pleasure of Reading

Today I visited the library in Overijse for the first time. I wanted to check whether they had any books in English. And...yes, they did. Also in French, Spanish, Italian and German. The choice was quite interesting with a mixture of new, old and classics. There are many books there that I can borrow. I started with two books by Jean Rhys;Wide Sargasso Sea about the 'mad woman in the attic' in Jane Eyre. This is the story about her life in Jamaica before and after meeting Mr Rochester. The other book is Voyage in the Dark. I don't know so much about this book but it sounds interesting.

A brief liaison with a kindly but unimaginative man leads Anna to abandon the theatre and drift into the demi-monde of 1914 London: red-plush dinners in private rooms 'up West'; ragtime, champagne and whisky back at the flat; these, and a discreet tinkle of sovereigns in the small hours pave the way to disaster...

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Hare with the Amber Eyes - A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal

Beautiful cover. This is the first page and...
This is a book I have heard of for quite some time. It was the title that first caught my attention, it
sounded so mysteriously in a way. And that is what this book is about. A mystery. A quest for finding out the story of a family, an international family that was scattered all over Europe. Furthermore, recently several bloggers have mentioned this book, so, when I went into Waterstones last week and this book looked at me from the shelves, there was no way back. I just had to have it...NOW! In spite of the fact that my own shelves are wearing down with books I have not yet read. I can only say that it was an excellent choice.

I did not realise though that it was a biography. That makes it even more fantastic. Edmund de Waal, a renowned ceramic artists, sets out to find out the history of his family when he inherits 264 netsuke figures from his great uncle. How did they come into the family? How did they travel within the family? How did they survive in the family through two World Wars and a Europe in ruins? This is more exciting than any mystery book.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Dark Quartet: The Story of the Brontës by Lynne Reid Banks

As a fan of the Brontë sisters I take every opportunity to read something about their lives. It does not
matter that you already know most things, each writer always has something to add to the whole story.

This book is a biographical or historical fiction of the four Brontë siblings. I love historical fiction so looked forward reading this. However, it is difficult to write biographical fiction about such loved characters as the Brontës. All the fans have their own view on how they were and how they lived. Lynne Reid Banks book is a master piece in this sense. I must admit that I had some difficulties getting into the book and the first part, the very start of the story, did not appeal to me. I found the writing a mixture between non-fiction and fiction. However, that changed rather quickly.

The more I got into the book, the more I was amazed how well she describes the siblings, as well as other characters connected to them. She has created their characters from what is known of them and from their writings, and at least for me, this is really spot on as I imagined them to be. She makes them so real, they just come into life in front of your eyes. Telling the stories from each of the siblings' point of view, you find out that they are all four very different characters.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Presence and the Art of Stillness

Today is a quiet Sunday morning, rather warm for the season, I even heard some birds singing. It is all quiet everywhere, which gives you a feeling of being alone. I went out in the garden to try to capture some late autumn colours. They are there because the autumn so far has been very mild. Here are a few flowers that lights up the day.

I have seen that some of you out there already have got snow. It looks really lovely, but I appreciate not to have to shovel snow from the drive way!

On brain pickings I found a wonderful article on What Leonard Cohen Teaches Us about Presence and the Art of Stillness. Novelist and essayist Pico Iyer, the author of The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, have interviewed singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, who in 1994 moved to the Mt. Baldy Zen Center to embark on five years of seclusion. Midway through Cohen was ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddist monk and given the Dharma name Jikan-Pali for "silence".  Iyer writes:

"Leonard Cohen had come to this Old World redoubt to make a life – an art – out of stillness. And he was working on simplifying himself as fiercely as he might on the verses of one of his songs, which he spends more than ten years polishing to perfection. The week I was visiting, he was essentially spending seven days and nights in a bare meditation hall, sitting stock-still. His name in the monastery, Jikan, referred to the silence between two thoughts.
One evening – four in the morning, the end of December – Cohen took time out from his meditations to walk down to my cabin and try to explain what he was doing here.
Sitting still, he said with unexpected passion, was “the real deep entertainment” he had found in his sixty-one years on the planet. “Real profound and voluptuous and delicious entertainment. The real feast that is available within this activity.”
Was he kidding? Cohen is famous for his mischief and ironies.
He wasn’t, I realized as he went on. “What else would I be doing?” he asked. “Would I be starting a new marriage with a young woman and raising another family? Finding new drugs, buying more expensive wine? I don’t know. This seems to me the most luxurious and sumptuous response to the emptiness of my own existence.”
Typically lofty and pitiless words; living on such close terms with silence clearly hadn’t diminished his gift for golden sentences. But the words carried weight when coming from one who seemed to have tasted all the pleasures that the world has to offer."

You can read the full thoughtful article  here.

The dilemma today is that we don't take the time to just listen to the quietness, to relax from social media and enjoy the stillness. Life is so busy so we somehow forget to live and forget what is the essence of life.

There some thoughtful words for a Sunday afternoon. I am awaiting a friend for lunch and am looking forward to the Masters ATP Final in Tennis in London this evening between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. It is promising to be a great match! So much for tranquility and reflection!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Autumn is here!

We have had a lovely autumn or more like an Indian summer extending well into November. However, now the leaves are very yellow and orange and are falling off the trees. This is how it looked yesterday when I took a walk in the rain!

This is how autumn is described in Wikipedia:

Autumn, interchangeably known as fall in North America, is one of the four temperate seasons. Autumn marks the transition from summer into winter, in September (Northern Hemisphere) or March (Southern Hemisphere), when the arrival of night becomes noticeably earlier and the temperature cools considerably. One of its main features is the shedding of leaves from deciduous trees.

What does autumn remind me of when it comes to books and films? The first to come into my mind is the wonderful film Legends of the Fall with Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt, based on the book with the same name by Jim Harrison. I have not read the book but seen the films several times.

Another film is the Autumn Sonata by Ingmar Bergman, with Ingrid Bergman, Liv Ullman and Lena Nyman. It is about a married daughter who longs for her mother's love, gets visited by the latter, a successful concert pianist. Being Ingmar Bergman it will not be either an easy film or very happy.

Not to forget the present series I am reading; the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon. The fourth in the series is called Drums of Autumn. 

Well, that seems to be all I can come up with for the time being. Do you have any 'autumn' titles to share with me?

Thursday, 13 November 2014

New purchases and the discovery of a new second hand book shop

Today it was a lovely, sunny day, with blue skies and trees or tremendous colours. One of these very nice autumn days. They are very rare here in Brussels where the autumn is mostly connected with heavy clouds and rain. Not this year though.

I went down town to Brussels today to finish of my walk No. 2. It took me to the St Catherine area of Brussels.  A post about this will appear shortly. However, I couldn't believe my luck when I stumbled on a fantastic second hand books shop. Just have a look here:

 I just wanted to look since I did not want to carry around more books than I already had in my ruck sac, but guess what? I couldn't resist a book which I wanted to read a long time. Furthermore, it had some guidance for studies on this book, which I thought I very much needed. It is Stendhal's The Red and the Black.  For 5 € it was a bargain.

After my walk I went to my favourite Döner Kebab place and had my usual durum pita, sans pommes frites et sauce picante! Good as usual and the guys working there recognises me these days. I always go there when I am in the neighbourhood and always orders the same. A sure way to be remembered!

After that it is only like 50 metres to the Waterstone book shop. I was not going to buy anything, just look around on what's new. Hmmphph! Well, I couldn't resist a book I wanted to read for a long time and that has got fantastic reviews and won the 2010 COSTA Biography Award; Edmund de Waal's The Hare With Amber Eyes. I also managed to find a Christmas present for my son who is a Student Brain Food by Lauren Lucien sounds very useful. It should be good for him to find some nice recipes that he can cook himself. He relies too much on ready made food I am afraid. Hopefully he will enjoy it and above all: USE IT!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Els Calderers - a flair of times passed by

Els Calderers
We have been to Mallorca regularly for about 12 years. Still, after all this time, we find places,
houses, restaurants, beaches and much more where we never visited. This time we made an excursion to Els Calderers. It has been on my list to do for a long time. It is a manor house that has been in the same family for many years. The present building is in the style from around 1750. The family has now opened the house as a museum and for that we can only be grateful.

The office (I am envious of course!)
It was once one of the largest wine estates in Mallorca. As so many other wine farmers in
Europe they were caught up by the wine louse, phylloxera, which came from the United States some time around 1860. The vine had to be taken away and it was replaced by more traditional farming.

The inner yard in autumn colours
The tour around the house is lovely and you are transported back in time (even if this is not the Outlander). The furniture and the traditional work tools from this time can be seen in the house, attic and cellar. It is very well kept and has one thing that I just adore; an inner garden!

The garden is big and houses animals and also traditional houses which was needed for the self produced households that was necessary for the times; barns, butchers house, stable, wagons, storage areas and so on. I could have moved in right away.

Enjoy the photos!

The kitchen

The dining room

I wouldn't mind this reading place!

A chapel of their own

The Bible

The wine cellar

The music room

The bedroom

The storage area for grains and seeds
At the back of the house was a lovely place with a circle in the middle and trees planted around it. Outside the tree circle they had some old fashioned torches, wonderfully made. A iron basket on a pole and inside fire wood. I would love to see it lighted on a party evening!

Going round the house on the back to come into one part of the garden

The circle of trees. Maybe it was used for dancing or playing?

The torches!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Excursion in Mallorca

I am in Mallorca this week. We had a friend come to visit so we did a nice walk and some nice restaurants. Now it is time for some serious stuff. We decided to go north-east to do some trekking. Unfortunately, we choose a day which was sunny where we are in the south west to go north east. There the clouds we getting very dark, thunder in the distance and when we were ready to go for our walk the rain started to come. We saw a wonderful rainbow though.

Looking where the sun was we decided to continue eastwards. It seemed that once we reached the places it was getting darker too. However, we started on our tour over the mountains (hills my husband would say who is Austrian). Once on top of the first one, with a heavy wind, which you can see on the picture below, it started to rain. Just to go back again.

We decided to take a break in a nearby restaurant. Some tapas helped us gather new energy, and once they were done, the weather improved. I could see the tower we wanted to visit from the restaurant.

You will see the tower in the back!

We took another way and ended up walking quite a bit to come down to the beach. From there we went over the mountains...I mean the hills, up an down, up and down. I said to Martin that if the tower is not on the next hill I will go back. It was like taking step exercises in a gym, although the steps were more irregular and BIGGER! Finally made it though. It is a wonderful tower, fantastic view from the top. It was quite a struggle through old stone steps (very high). At one stage I had to help my leg reaching the next step! It ended in a wooden ladder. Rather solid I am happy to say, so I could make it to the top. It was all worth it. Absolutely fantastic view all around the landscape: sea and hills in all directions. And...on top of the tower an old rusty canon.

Here seen with my not so rusty husband!

As you can see the blue sky took over totally and we had a wonderful day and walk. The air is so fresh now in the autumn. Although temperatures dropped from 25-30 degrees to 15 (I am talking Celsius here) you feel the chillness, but the air is just sooooo fresh.  Here some more pictures to make you jealous.

Now we have eaten a lovely dinner and will have an early night. I feel totally knocked out after this walk today. How will it be tomorrow? I did some stretching so hopefully I will be ok. We took a walk along the waterfront which is lovely. You can either go directly down to the beach or where there is no beach there are some stone steps down. All very 1950s or 60s. Photos tomorrow and some more info on Port de Pollensa where we are staying. It is even said that in the hotel where we are staying Agatha Christie MIGHT have stayed! She did write something called Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories  so might have been inspired from here. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Classic Spin #8

On November 10 there will be another classic spin. Here is my list of 20 of which I will read the one number that is chosen.

1. Emma by Jane Austen
2. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
3. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
4. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
5. Light in August by William Faulkner
6. My Childhood by Maxim Gorky
7. Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
8. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
9. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
10. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
11. Ben Hur by Lew Wallace
12. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
13. Richard III by William Shakespeare
14. Travels With My Aunt by Graham Green
15. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
16. The Overcoat and Other Stories by Nikolaj Gogol
17. Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waughn
18. Sweet Bird of Youth by Tennessee Williams
19. The Taming of a Screw by William Shakespeare
20. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

I am happy to say that I have read 3 of the 50 books I put on my list.

The Angelic Avengers by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)

My TBR shelves have hosted this book for about 20 years I think. That is when it was printed and it

makes sense that it was then I bought it. I had already started it, if I judge from the book mark still in it. However, I only had vague remembrance of the book, so I started afresh.

Like with a lot of other books from these shelves, I am wondering why I have kept it there for so long. It is a lovely book, but not a ‘thundering’ read, if you know what I mean. The story evolves slowly, slowly, but somehow there is always a new hint of something to come. The language is beautiful, calm, almost fragile in its prose.

Not to reveal too much here is a summary of the start. Lucan is alone in the world and has got a position as a governess with a wealthy widow. He makes her an offer that she can refuse and she runs away in the middle of the night. She is heading to her school friend Zosine which she has not met since school. Arriving at her mansion on the day of her birthday ball she is welcomed with joy. However, things are not as good as they seem. Zosine’s father is in bankruptcy and has to flee, the creditors are banging the door to the mansion the next day and the two girls have to leave.

Having no funds to live from they travel to London and apply for positions as governesses. Since they don’t want to separate it is difficult to find something. Then one day reverend Pennhallow enters the scene. He and his wife are looking for two girls to take in for charity. He will teach them for a year and they are to live with them in their house in France. Well, that all sounds rather good doesn’t it?

From here on we follow the girls during this year. It is difficult to put the novel in a genre since it touches on so many. I find it gothic, magic, supernatural, romantic and mysterious. Almost like a fairy tale. All in one story. It is magically written, with a calm movement forward of the story, romantic descriptions of the landscape and the daily life in this rural area. It reminds me a little bit of The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe  but not that long lingering on descriptions.

It is not a book that overwhelms you with the story, but it stays with you after you have finished the book. Isak Dinesen the pseudonym for Karen Blixen is mostly known for her book The African Farm on which the film Out of Africa was based. I have seen the film but not read the book, although it is on my TBR shelves as well. I think it is time to read that one as well.